Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security for Australians with disability

Ms Shannon Butler1, Professor Vicki Flood1,2,3, Dr Josephine Gwynn1,2

1Sydney School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney , Sydney, Australia, 2Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney , Sydney, Australia, 3Westmead Hospital, Western Sydney Local Health District, Australia

People with disability are at an increased risk of food insecurity under typical circumstances, and this is likely to be heightened in crisis situations such as the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. To begin to understand the impact of the pandemic on food security in the disability setting, we conducted a search of public discourse authored or circulated by the disability representative organisations that are funded under the Australian government’s Disability Representative Organisations program. By examining each organisation’s Twitter feed for content related to food access during the first wave of the pandemic, we have been able to construct a narrative of emerging food security issues that warrant further exploration and government attention. These issues align with known risk factors for food insecurity for people with disability, and include difficulty obtaining essential items in shops, disruptions to supports required for food access or preparation, and reduced food affordability combined with insufficient financial resources to offset cost increases. Australian government should provide adequate financial support and implement measures to safeguard continuity of disability supports to ensure ongoing food security during the pandemic. Furthermore, revision to Australia’s disaster preparedness and risk reduction frameworks is required. These frameworks should adopt a disability-inclusive approach, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, to enhance their ability to inform development of targeted risk-reduction strategies which prevent increased food insecurity during future crisis situations.


Shannon Butler is a PhD candidate at The University of Sydney and an Accredited Practising Dietitian. She has a background in disability support and has held roles in the sector including support worker, support coordinator, and dietitian. Her research focuses on the nutritional health and wellbeing of people with disability in Australia.

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